Andijan massacre
A Kyrgyz woman stands next to a placard with a picture showing 12-13 May 2005 events in the Uzbek town of Andijan, during a commemoration in front of the Uzbekistan Embassy in BishkekGetty Images

Nine years on from the Andijan massacre which cost the lives of a reported 1,000 people at the hands of the Uzbek government, IBTimes UK looks back at this tragic event - its causes and its aftermath.

The uprising erupted in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan on 13 May 2005, following the prosecution of 23 Uzbek businessmen allegedly tied to religious group Akramiya.

The prosecution, deemend unjust by many, sparked protests which culminated in the storm of the prison where the businessmen were being held.

Some gunmen, joined by the 23 freed defendants, took over the regional administration building in Andijan, and took at least 20 law enforcement and government officials hostage. Hundreds of civilians joined the gunmen's protest demanding the resignation of President Islam Karimov.

After hours of fruitless negotiations, the government launched a major offensive on the square where the protesters had gathered to voice their dissent. Hundreds of unarmed people were killed.

Journalist Galima Bukharbaeva, who was present when the government troops opened fire, said: "At first, one group of armoured-personnel carriers approached the [city] square, and then another group appeared.

"They opened fire without mercy on everyone indiscriminately, including women and children. The crowd began to run in all directions. We dove into a ditch and lay there for a while. I saw at least five bloody corpses next to me.

"When we got out of the ditch, we ran along the streets into the neighbourhood and looked for a place where there was no shooting. But shots could be heard everywhere..."

Another witness told the BBC: "We don't know what happened to us. All of a sudden these heavy armoured vehicles came, we don't know how it all happened, we are simple citizens, ordinary people."

The estimates of those killed range from 187, the official count of the government, to 1,500.

Mass Graves

Several bodies were buried in mass graves holding 15 to 20 people each, or thrown into the Karasu River.

According to Muhammad Solih, founder and leader of Uzbekistan's Erk political party, at least 18 flights took 35 or more bodies out of Andijan shortly after the massacre.

Some families of the deceased found the graves of their relatives, dug up the bodies, and reburied them.

What does the Uzbek government say about the massacre?

The government justified its actions by saying it was trying to quell a violent protest by Islamist extremists.

Nine years after the massacre the government is still refusing to take responsibility for the hundreds of innocent people who died.

In light of this refusal to admit responsibility, Human Rights Watch has urged the US and the EU to press Uzbekistan to open an independent and international inquiry.

"The long shadow of Andijan and the crackdown the government unleashed in its wake still hang over Uzbekistan's people and their government's relations with the world," said Steve Swerdlow, central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. 

"The issue of Andijan is not 'closed' for the victims' families, those the government continues to unlawfully imprison, or the countless other citizens who live in fear of peacefully expressing opinions that differ from the Uzbek government line."